Why Did Michelle Obama Exempt Military Moms From 'Let's Move'?

financiersIn an amazing reversal this Mother's Day, the First Lady told a group of moms to eat as many cookies as they want and announced that today was a Don't Let's Move day.

Was this a joke? Was Michelle O caving to the jeers of Sarah Palin?

Mrs. Obama's audience was actually an audience of military moms, guests of a White House Mother's Day tea party. The menu had plenty of fruit and veggies, of course. But there were also scones, tarts, and financiers (little French sponge cakes, and okay, none of these are actually cookies). With this invitation to indulge in dessert, the First Lady presented one of the simplest yet most radical ideas Americans currently face when it comes to food: balance.


When I think about military service, I think of sacrifice and discipline. And chaos. Combat is rough, dangerous, and often disorienting work. Military life, as my ex-Marine brother will tell you, is highly regimented because war is unpredictable. From the outside, we see people going overseas and not always making it back home. For those on the inside, it means being away from your loved ones for months at a time without the certainty that you will definitely make it back home again.

So when Michelle Obama encourages military moms to take it easy and have some dessert, she's doing something more than saying thank you with sugar. She's also saying something about balance. In a world where we often feel much is out of our control, when life feels chaotic, you can decide when it's a time for veggies and when it's a time for cake. Finding balance with our food helps us make sense of the world.

This balance -- this idea of moderation -- is something just about everyone I know agrees is a good idea. And yet, we are still a nation of people who consistently eat "sometimes" foods all the time. Here we are with our rising diabetes rates and heart disease, all self-inflicted illnesses. Sure there are people who cannot afford healthy food. But those of us in the middle-income bracket actually can afford to make healthy choices. And yet, many of us are not.

So why is it so hard? Are our eating lives out of balance because life is out of balance? In this uncertain world, is moderation just an impossible goal?

Image via bloggyboulga/Flickr

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